Social Medicine: Brewing Beer

Social Medicine: Brewing Beer

When I was a kid I was confused by beer. I remember not understanding Strange Brew. I remember my parents taking me and my siblings to an Oktoberfest carnival, going down a tall and smooth plastic slide with my legs in a potato sack and hearing my Dad complain everyone around us was drunk. He said this as if it was a bad thing yet everyone was happy. Hmmm. My confusion grew. “Booze”, as I called all alcohol, was a big mystery. The meaning I constructed of it made little sense. It had a strong odor, was kept on high glass shelves and Grandmas often knitted poodle outfits for their bottles. It wasn’t until a trip to Busch Gardens that I got the opportunity to try a sip of the mysterious elixir. After touring the the Busch Brewery in Williamsburg, Virginia, my mom gave me her cup to try. I thought it was vile.

Then in high school there was Crazy Horse, a 40 oz. malt liquor all the rage with the stoners and juvenile delinquents I hung around with. I tipped my 40 when no one was looking and used the bottle for decorative purposes. (Note: Crazy Horse malt liquor is no longer. After an 8 year legal battle with the Estate of Crazy Horse and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the brewing company settled. Interesting read here.) I just thought that I was supposed to like the stuff… until Ian MacKaye and Ray Cappo (pictured) convinced me otherwise. I was “straightedege for life” for 5 years, which to an adolescent is life.

Eventually I realized that abstaining from alcohol was a useless endeavor. I had never even been drunk before, making it hardly a vice. By the time I managed to swallow more than one bottle of Heineken, I learned it was just fun, a fuzzing of that nagging voice in my head that needs occasional fuzzing.

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Onward and into the now. As October looms near, the costume aisle in your local drug store will soon be splattered in red and green, the mornings and evenings are now requiring toasty socks and my Christmas crafting has officially begun. Along with needlework and woodwork, this year I will be brewing a spiced holiday ale! With the expertise of my Milwaukee brewer, Wok Man, fellow ex-aficionado of stoners and juvenile delinquents, CandyPenny, and the hungry hungry yeast of the holy carboy, we’re brewing 5 gallons of bread soda for holiday gift giving.

Steeping the dark crystal grains in the kettle. It’s like a sweatsock teabag.
As the water heats the sweatsock turns it a deep chocolate color.
Adding the malt extracts, mulling spices and hops, the entire apartment was filled with a delicious aroma. It smelled like sweet potatoes and cinnamon, Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and fresh baked bread.
After bringing to a boil again, a thick layer of glop surfaces, breaking like a cracked desert.
Now we have “wort”. And it needs to chill.
Chilled wort is added to the carboy along with water and the yeast. The yeast chomp on the sugars from the malt and give off CO2 and alcohol. We’ll let them do this at least 6 weeks.Beer!